Anyone happen to think that “Gee, when the legislature decided to kill the unions in Michigan, they were sure lucky someone had a bill written up and ready to go!” Well it sure was a coincidence for some lucky legislature and little governor. And how do you think that was possible? Why their friends at ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) just happened to have a bill all ready to go when the legislature needed it. Change a word here and there and by golly, instant legislation. Go here for some links to previous ALEC stories.
For those unfamiliar with ALEC, they are a behind the scenes fake “charity” group made up of corporations and state legislators. Their purpose is to craft “model” legislation that is extremely favorable to corporations. Then if an opening can be found, one of the thousands of state legislators in state houses in this country submits an ALEC written bill to address a “problem.”
Screwing workers is only one of many agenda items that ALEC has legislation prepared for. Moving the legislation from an ALEC wish list into an actual bill is an easy task more than willingly carried out by any of thousands of complicit state legislators across the country. Most are Republican and are more than willing to do whatever their corporate masters wish. There is little consideration for their constituents. These legislators are beholden to the corporations just as their big brothers in the US congress have made themselves beholden to Grover Norquist.
So here in America we are taught that our lawmakers are elected by the people and as such are beholden to the people to do represent them. But the truth is that on the Republican side of the aisle, lawmakers are beholden to an unelected group that does its best to stay out of site. I am a believer in open government. When a group has as much influence as ALEC they need to have huge spotlights shone on them 24 hours a day. One of the main resons a free press is enshrined in the constitution is to give the freedom to stop abuses like ALEC. But sadly the corporations that now own most of our press are part of ALEC.
Where does Iowa come in? We are about to begin another legislative session in Iowa. Last session all Republican members of the Iowa hose were ALEC members. At the beginning of the session each member of the house is enrolled in ALEC unless they opt out. I think you can expect that once again we will have all Republican members enroll. And you can bet that pleasing ALEC is way more important to them than doing what is right for Iowa. Plus we have a governor who is a founding member of ALEC, so we must be concerned that his allegiance is to ALEC.
So when issues come up in the legislature we need to look at the bills brought to address the problem. Are they ALEC model legislation or close to it? If so do they really address the real issue at hand? Iowa deserves to have legislators who are working for Iowa and not the corporations.
I have been trying to think of an analogy for ALEC. I have one but it may not mean as much to Iowans but I will throw it out there for consideration.
For those who have traveled in the south, you may recall seeing a green vine that seems to be in the background everyplace. If there is an abandoned car or a telephone poll or anything that doesn’t move, this vine wraps around it. This is kudzu. Kudzu was brought to the US from Japan as a decorative plant and for a while was used as forage food and as ground cover. But kudzu has some big problems – it grows at a monstrously fast rate for one thing. It can grow as much as a foot a day. It also propagates easily and is hard to kill. Some herbicides are actually kudzu food. Finally, kudzu can be quite damaging to forests where it blocks sunlight from trees.
So when you travel south, you will see a green vine growing everywhere. Some folks are fighting to stop its growth, but many living in the south don’t even know what it is. Kudzu quietly does its destruction, just like ALEC. Quietly growing over everything and choking life from it.
While it may be impossible to ban ALEC and groups like them, we need to have them work in the open. As with all of their meetings the recent meeting in Washington D.C. was members only. Yet out of that meeting will come laws like the one just passed in Michigan, or the “Stand Your Ground” laws that are so questionable. And these laws drafted behind closed doors will spread throughout the states just like kudzu destroying the forest.